Football scored a goal which money could not buy - GulfToday

Football scored a goal which money could not buy


The idea of the European Super League has been widely criticised.

Some games carry class connotations. Golf, tennis and even cricket are generally considered an elite preserve while football is looked upon as more working class. Anyone can play football, and unlike golf or tennis, you do not need any dress code: just your feet, even if they are bare. Football has made international celebrities out of players such as Maradona, who learnt the initial tricks of the sport in an impoverished neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. He was the emperor of unconventional football, noted for his incredible dribbling as he barrelled through the opposition towards the goal. As his former Sevilla teammate Rafa Paz said, “You could tell he was from street football. He did keepy-uppies with a ball of tinfoil. He made a brick look round.”

Like the legends Pele and George Best, he was the working-class hero, entertaining millions from the shanties with his incredible footy wizardry.

As the famous Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich said, “Football is the ballet of the masses.”

Somewhere along the way, the ‘Dirty Dozen’— the 12 clubs who decided to break away from mainstream football and form their own elite band — forgot this. The strategies may be played with the mind, but it is the heart that matters. The heart of the spectators, that is. You cannot take them for a ride. Their emotions, their involvement, their passion count more than anything else.

The plans for a Super League of Europe’s top soccer clubs were being chalked out in utter secrecy, but when they were finally made public, it is as though the fans were hit with a sledgehammer. It was a body blow to the mind of the countless football aficionados whose admiration for their favourite stars had reached the stratosphere, who were shell-shocked by this explosion of an announcement. There was anger, angst and anguish.

The backlash from the stands of disappointment reached a crescendo that reverberated all the way to the dressing rooms, even influential political circles.

Eric Cantona, former Manchester United midfielder, made a very pertinent remark. He said, “The fans are the most important thing in football and they have to be respected. Did these big clubs even ask their fans what they thought about this idea? No, unfortunately. And that’s a shame.”

Twelve of Europe’s leading soccer clubs including those from England announced a breakaway league on Sunday but after 48 hours of being savaged for their act the six English clubs backed out on Tuesday, scuppering their own plan.

Soon the league was in shreds. The reaction was something to see. The shoutout of the celebrations was louder than the roar for a goal.

But why was the Super League set up in the first place? The argument was that it would rake in more revenue for the top soccer clubs and allow them to distribute more money to the rest of the game.

This was rubbished by the sport’s governing bodies, other teams and fan groups who said the league would only add more cash to the coffers of elite clubs. J P Morgan, a global leader in financial services, was to fund the League with a $4.2 billion grant that would have been shared by the 12 founding clubs. That did not happen. The lure of lucre was perforce given the snub.

Some of the top clubs in English football were made to eat humble pie. The route from breakaway to breaking point was too short to last. It was one of those rare issues that had even the British ministers at one in condemning the move. Boris Johnson said his government would consider passing legislation to stop the planned breakaway European Super League.

In the end, football won. Class differences among fans were given the go-by to bury financial gain. Passion matters: in football, as in romance, the heart will go on.

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